Once a brand achieves success in its domestic market, top management usually explores opportunities to market the brand internationally. Multi-national companies continuously investigate new opportunities to grow their market share by entering emerging markets. Generally, the most attractive markets have a large, bustling middle-class, limited competition and a vibrant economic outlook. Some of these countries are included in the BRIC nations—Brazil, Russia, India and China. Other countries that have gained the attention of marketers include several developing members of the EU and oil and mineral rich nations in Africa.
Struggle Between Uniformity and Customization
Marketing brands to international markets can be challenging. Products and advertising that are successful in one country may flop in another country. Entering a new market without first-hand knowledge can prove disastrous in terms of both the money the company invests and the embarrassment of a poorly planned product launch. One reason that new products fail when launched in new markets is that decision makers at the corporate level lack cultural knowledge, professional translation skills and valuable insights into the local market. This lack of knowledge often is not discovered until after a campaign or website is launched, when it is too late. For this reason, many companies have decided to control key elements at the corporate offices, while allowing personnel at the local level to have a voice in marketing and other sales and distribution aspects.
Often brands need to customize their marketing mix to be successful in a foreign market. Before entering a market, it is wise to conduct marketing research to determine the specific changes that need to be made. Different races and cultures require varying degrees of customization. For example, a U.S. manufacturer of women’s clothing may need to make changes to its product line to better fit Japanese women. Similarly, different cultures respond to advertising messages, colors and products differently. Companies like The Marketing Analysts use observation and interview techniques to identify the different ways products are evaluated and consumed. If needed, changes in the marketing of the product are made. Procter and Gamble uses local marketing research teams to watch consumers closely in different countries. Part of their mission is to assess how closely consumers in different markets are similar so that they can minimize changes and tailor their products and marketing messages as needed.
When a brand goes international, marketers strive for a certain level of consistency that will allow their brand to be recognized throughout the world. People recognize a brand by its quality, aesthetics, packaging, logo, color, font and even the type of retail outlet. Most consumers don’t expect to find premium brands at Walmart. However, because attaining this level of uniformity can be challenging for some companies, they allow a certain level of leeway. For example, an organization like UNICEF is sometimes challenged when entering primitive markets that don’t have access to radio, television, printing resources or the Internet. In such cases, keeping track of how marketing communication is being managed in the field is impossible. Thus supervisors must be trusted to make the right choices, since they know the local market.